Disclaimer: This Astro A50 headset was provided to me by a PR company for the purposes of a review upon my request. This will not affect my review in any way, and is being explained for the purposes of transparency with our audience.
Astro is a name most of you will be familiar with, but for those of you who aren’t a little backstory. Astro are held to a very high standard by gamers who know of them. They are the headset of choice for many professional eSports teams and, for those who can afford them, many hardcore gamers. The new Astro A50 headset is the updated model that released in 2016 and is a high end gaming headset that promises to deliver an awesome audio experience. The new model features a mix-amp built into the side of the headset, and sports a new charging base for the headset to rest on. The version I reviewed was the PS4/PC version, but there is also a Xbox One/PC version available.
Normally I discuss each section individually, but for this I’m going to mix things up. We’re going to outline the good and then the bad, before I give my overall thoughts on the headset.
The first thing to talk about when discussing the good things about this headset is the audio quality. I have honestly never had such good audio quality from a headset. The A50 headset allows you to hit a switch to turn on/off the Dolby 7.1 surround sound, which is really simple to locate and use. I would play games with Dolby on and I would know where everything is. Some games benefited from it better than others. I found that the headset was best used when playing Battlefield 1. I could hear the exact direction that enemies were coming from, even when they were behind me, and that really helped. Rocket League on the other hand didn’t really benefit from the surround sound in terms of helping me play, but it did still sound better than my current headset. It’s hard to explain just how clear the audio is without experiencing it. If you ever get the chance to put on an A50 headset and give it a whirl I highly suggest doing so.
The microphone on the A50 is another simple to use feature of the headset. Unlike most other headsets, which feature a removable microphone, the A50 model sports a flip up/down microphone. To mute the microphone you simply just flip the microphone up. I’ll give you £5 if you can guess how you unmute the microphone. Some of you may not be bothered by this as you don’t mute your mic, but I don’t use my headsets just for gaming. I use it to listen to Youtube videos and listen to Spotify, so having the microphone simply flip out the way (while a small touch) was nice.
EASE OF USE/COMFORT
Everything about the A50 headset is simple to use. We’ve already discussed the microphone and the button to activate the Dolby surround sound but even the initial setup process was simple. The headset and base come out of the box, the USB wire connects to the PS4 (for power) and the optical cable connects to the base and PS4 (for the Dolby surround) and you’re set to go. The headset is also comfier than you could imagine. Even though you are aware you’re wearing a headset, it doesn’t feel like a headset. The ear cushions are comfy and don’t crush your ears. There’s no pain from wearing them for prolonged period either which was nice. You honestly will forget you’re wearing them.
I will say make sure you read the instructions first. You can plug the headset in and begin playing, but to truly enjoy it certain audio settings have to be changed on your PS4. For example, you must set it so that only chat audio comes through the headset. However this actually brings all audio through the headset. Without messing with these settings you will not get the best audio experience from the A50 headset.
The battery life of the headset is good. I wore this headset for about 5 hours and used just under half my battery. Once you’re done with the A50 headset, you place them back on the base to charge. Charging is simple as well (welllllll kind of). You simply place the headset on the base, wiggle it around a tad and wait for the light on the headset to come on. Charging occurs at a fairly fast rate; it’s not slow but it’s by no means extraordinarily fast either. It is possible to use a cable to play the headset while charging, however the cable is short.
If you are someone who plays exclusively with a headset and plays for long periods you may find yourself having to leave the PS4 in Rest Mode or playing without a headset while it charges. Because the USB cable plugs into the PS4 USB port (or that’s what I did) the headset won’t charge while the PS4 is off. You could technically use a mains power adaptor that has a USB port on it to charge the headset while the PS4 is off, but I can’t comment on if this works (but I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t).
This is a short point but a very good one nonetheless. Many of the headsets I have owned have felt, well brittle in all honesty. You find yourself gingerly taking them off from fear of snapping the headband and being left without a headset. The A50 headset doesn’t have that. The entire headset is light, yet built very well. It’s sturdy and you can pick the headset up (and take it off) without having the fear of breaking it. I can’t comment on how the headset reacts to being tossed on the sofa after you’re finished with them. I did not have the courage to do that. Don’t judge me too harshly, we’ve all done it now and then.
The A50 headset excels in almost every field that it should do for a high end gaming headset. It has superior audio quality, is easy to use and has enough battery to get you through your session. However, it isn’t without it’s flaws.
THE PRICE TAG
Ah the inevitable discussion. You knew it was coming. As I have said the Astro A50 headset is a high-end gaming headset, and that does unfortunately come with a high-end price tag. Prices in the UK (for the PS4 variant) start as low as £220 from Argos, and go up to £280 when bought direct from Astro. I know, I don’t understand the price gap either. The price of the headset can be somewhat justified with the sheer quality of the headset. You’ll have to trust me when I say that, despite the price tag, these headsets are an investment. However, the price tag (and the fact many eSports teams use them, and well technically they are professional gamers) does create this almost elitist feeling. You get the impression that only the best of the best gamers use Astro. If you are unsure on spilling out £220 (because who’s going to spend £60 to buy from Astro directly?) on a headset, be wise; Use that birthday/Christmas money to soften the blow.
THE RANGE OF THE WIRELESS HEADSET
We now come to my biggest disappointment after having opened and set up my headset. I was aware of the price tag and, knowing I will never own a pair of A50s, decided to get the full use out of them during the two weeks I had them. As I said before I like to listen to Youtube/Spotify while I’m indoors. I also became used to using my current wireless headset to go downstairs, grab some food and continue chatting to my mates while doing so. So imagine how disheartened I was when the A50 headset lost connection pretty much as soon as I walked out of my bedroom. I would be on my way downstairs and I would begin missing every 2 out of 3 words. Then when I actually got downstairs, nothing. No sound at all.
For many of you this may not be a big deal. You only use headsets for gaming and you’ll be near the base at all times. That’s perfectly fine. However, I was a tad unimpressed by the fact that my £70 Turtle Beach headset could pick up the conversation perfectly while I was downstairs, but a £220 headset could not. If you are paying this extra for such a quality audio experience, you would expect some range. I got maybe 8 or 9 foot away before I started losing connection. That may not bother some of you, but to me it’s a big issue. More so in principle than anything.
So to sum up. The Astro A50 headset is an excellent headset and one that I would love every gamer to own. With the price tag though many of you will understandably be put off of buying them. I’ve done all I can to convince you that this headset is worth the money. I have never used such a good headset (despite the range issue) in my time playing games. If you ever come across a pair, at a convention or even at a friend’s house, take the time to test them. They are expensive, but that price is justified with the sturdy build and the quality of the audio.